By Joan Larsen
I admit. . . searching for trees usually is way down the list of things we plan to do in life. Way down. But then – then – I actually spent the night in a nest, a so-called human nest lodged in a tree in Big Sur, California. If you are “into” unforgettable experiences, put this high on your list of things to do. But . . . I found that once you have nested high in a tree, you bond. And forever after you tend to – well, have an affinity with the taller things in nature.
Now I find myself hooked on remarkable trees, willing to go considerable distance out of my way in my travels to snap photos of trees that pride themselves in being unique. I feel that they actually dare me to express some signs of just plain AWE.
Let me introduce you to a few of my absolute favorites – you know, the ones that may have you stumbling over mammoth root systems to find in far-out places in the world. If my words make me sound like a proud mother, the journey to come upon them was often like hard labor. But oh so worth it!
On a steep hillside along the rugged northern California Lost Coast you will find the grove (above) of ancient candelabra redwoods — with twisted trunks and branches that shoot out wildly in all directions as if frozen in a conniption fit. The local name, The Enchanted Forest, is perfect, don’t you think?
An amazing little tree that I choose to call “the grape tree” (jabuticaba is far too hard to pronounce) is covered with large purple fruit that could easily be mistaken for plums and grapes. But instead you will find that it is harvested to be used in an astringent medication to treat diarrhea!
You are looking at one of the most deadly trees on our earth – the Bottle Tree of Namibia. The name?The shape of its stem. When I visited Africa and Namibia, I found that the sap of this tree is very poisonous and used in the past by bushmen as arrow poison – and somehow have never forgotten that fact.
Hidden in the almost unknown Socotra Archipelago off Africa in the Indian Ocean, lies the home of the Dragon Blood Tree. You can see that its trunk is bare, branching only at the top. But it is its unusual interior that is of the most interest. It has bright red sap that, of all things, is used in West Africa as a red varnish for violins. They have violins in West Africa?
One of my favorite national parks, Sequoia, is home of the tallest tree on earth – but I can be found wandering on the paths beneath all of these giant trees, always finding it a spiritual experience.
The wonderful Mexican town of Oaxaca is worth seeing, but this Tule tree that measures 119 feet around is far wider than the General Sherman in Sequoia. It is believed to be 2000 years old.
Visitors to Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan seem willing to go out of their way to see Chapel Rock formation on Lake Superior. You see, a single tree stands on that rock. But how can it survive? Well, if you look closely, you will see that its roots have reached across the gap to soil on the mainland. Pretty amazing!
In Charleston, South Carolina, stands a landmark thought to be 1500 years old. It is a live oak with massive, dramatic limbs and wide spreading canopy that seem to present the aura of an angel . . . thus its name The Angel Oak.
On the marvelous winding road to Hana in Hawaii, you will find a turn-off to the well-named Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove – a place of such beauty and awe that it must not be missed.
Sri Lanka, a beautiful island off by itself, holds these stands of bamboo that run forever. This gives me a chance to introduce you to my new best friend who can shimmy up those poles like no one I know!
The island of Madagascar has the world’s only wild lemurs . . . but its baobab trees, filled with water – as seen here – are also totally unforgettable!
Bolivia may be known for tin and high altitude that makes you need oxygen in your hotel room, but my own favorite things are the TOBORICH trees. Somehow, I am guessing you will agree.
Costa Rica is known for its rain forest, but at the root of it all, you know you have to pose with the sensuous tree roots above ground that have adapted to its environment well. What a beautiful country!
The biggest drawing cards of Cambodia are its ruins of such beauty, making you feel like you are in another world. But what sets them apart is the root system of its trees, long ago taking over the ruins in the most haunting but stunning way, speaking to its antiquity as little else could.
Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
– Khalil Gibran
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”